The deepening economic crisis is forcing people to make heartbreaking choices between going hungry, buying life-saving medicine, or finding the money to send children to school.
A needs assessment conducted by the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies in 11 of the country’s 25 districts has found that 96 per cent of the more than 2,900 households surveyed have been affected by the current crisis in some way — with food insecurity, health, livelihoods, and nutrition among the top concerns. Deteriorating physical safety and security, as well as violence against women and children, stood out.
The report uncovered worryingly high problems of access to food, either because of high cost, income stress or lack of availability. Runaway inflation and loss of livelihoods have doubly impacted people’s ability to cope with the record cost of living. Income loss is causing significant food insecurity, while inflation is driving up the cost of medicine and fuel costs are preventing access to essential healthcare.
“The report provides first-hand evidence of how the most vulnerable people, who are already under the poverty line, are being driven further towards despair,” said a Red Cross official. “As a result, people are resorting to borrowing heavily, eating less food and fewer times per day, pawning valuables and assets, and using other survival strategies just to scrape by.”
Without immediate humanitarian interventions, the impact on communities is likely to be long-lasting and cumulative, the report warns.
As Director General of the Sri Lanka Red Cross Society, Dr Mahesh Gunasekara, said, “We work on the ground and at the heart of communities. We hear the most heart-wrenching stories of loss of hope and gripping fear for the future.”
“Life for them is like losing the battle for survival; for single women with children, people living with disabilities, the elderly, casual labourers, and fishermen,” he said, adding, “The most vulnerable need our help now so they can get through the worst of the economic crisis. We need to act to ensure lives are saved and restored.”
Image: Sri Lanka Red Cross